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UMass Lowell launches new sustainability initiative

Nov 03, 2019 06:49AM

UMass Lowell


LOWELL, – UMass Lowell today announced it is establishing the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy to bring together the university’s numerous efforts in areas from clean energy and energy resiliency to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

The new institute is another major step forward for UMass Lowell, which is already ranked No. 1 among Massachusetts colleges and universities in sustainability by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). UMass Lowell is in the top 2 percent of more than 1,000 institutions worldwide with a gold ranking in the organization’s rigorous sustainability rating system. The designation was secured even as the campus has grown its footprint to 4.8 million square feet while simultaneously eliminating more than 9 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually and cutting energy costs by more than $1.2 million a year through the state’s largest Accelerated Energy Program.

The new Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy will foster integrated knowledge and action on important issues associated with sustainability, as well as enhancing student opportunities for education and real-world experience through internships. It will bring research centers and other campus initiatives, including the Office of Sustainability under one umbrella.

“The institute accelerates our ability to make real change both locally and across the globe. Our students, supported by expert faculty and staff, will take the lead in tackling the sustainability challenges that will only increase in urgency throughout their lives,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney.

The announcement was made at the dedication of the Rist Urban Agriculture Greenhouse and Farm, located on UMass Lowell’s East Campus. The event featured a farmer’s market with numerous local vendors, including Mill City Grows, Carlisle Honey & Beekeeping and Neighbor Acre’s Farm, among others. The greenhouse, constructed and opened two years ago, is the site of an urban agriculture partnership with Mill City Grows that grows and distributes fresh vegetables throughout community and on campus. It also offers hands-on learning for students, including those in UMass Lowell’s Honors College.

“The Department of Agricultural Resources has helped to strengthen farming enterprises in cities across the Commonwealth by leveraging resources and opportunities for the production, processing and marketing of fresh, nutritious food and UMass Lowell’s Rist Urban Agriculture Greenhouse and Farm is a shining example of our investments,” said MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux. “Our agency commends UMass Lowell’s efforts to address food production through sustainable, innovative practices.”

The greenhouse and institute are named for Brian and Kim Rist, who earlier this year made the largest single donation – $5 million – to UMass Lowell in its history. A $1 million share of that gift will fund the launch of the new institute and create an endowment for its future operations.

“Through the extraordinary generosity of Brian and his wife Kim, the Rist Institute for Sustainability and Energy will bring the university to a new standard of achievement in energy efficiency, resiliency, clean energy and environmental impact,” said Moloney.

At the dedication ceremony, Brian Rist – a UMass Lowell graduate originally from Stoughton who went on to found one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of hurricane-protection equipment – noted that, as a UMass Lowell student, he lived in an East Campus residence hall next to what is now the greenhouse and farm.

“Today, we’re eating food that’s produced in these gardens. UMass Lowell is not only producing food but jobs in the community. It is my honor to be partners with all of you,” he said.
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